In the Beginning: Artists Respond to Genesis - Participate

June 8, 2008 - January 6, 2009


Photo: Bruce Damonte

Artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles invites you to participate in Tsimtsum / Shevirat Ha-Kelim: Contraction / The Shattering of the Perfect Vessels --> Birthing Tikkun Olam. Please read the artist's invitation below and her Story that forms the core of the artist's concept. If you wish to participate, please download the AGREEMENT, fill it out and email it to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Each AGREEMENT will be placed on public view as part of the installation in the BOOK OF AGREEMENTS AND COVENANTS in the exhibition In the Beginning: Artists Respond to Genesis.

"The Story" PDF



Invitation to Visitors

Dear Visitor, Dear Person,

Welcome! I invite you to come into this artwork, wherever you are. Look in the mirror. Please. Find yourself in the mirror. Who do you see?

Genesis 1 DAY 6 tells you that the image reflecting back at you is a likeness of the Eternal Creator of the world. The image that you see is sacred. You are unique in all of creation. Yes, you. Genesis 1 Day 1 tells you that your whole being is filled with sparks from the original first light of creation. From the very beginning, you have the power of the Eternal Creator in you and you have the power to bring light out of the chaos of darkness.

Yet, sacred Being is not enough. There is Tikkun work to be done. Tikkun is Hebrew for "heal," and even "transform." "Tikkun work" means that you can heal, restore, re-invent, re-create, even transform something in the world that is degraded, broken, hearts that are shattered.

My artwork is incomplete. I need you! I left the core of my installation space in the museum empty; its vacancy beckons you to take your place within it, to inhabit it. I invite you to participate in making it whole. How? I ask that you take up the unfinished work of my art by creating your own project of Tikkun. You come up with it. You decide. You commit. That comes out of your enormous freedom to create, not mine. You can expand this artwork, so that it becomes alive out in the world. There are two ways to do this.

Today, I ask that you describe what you are committing to do - to write or draw a picture of your intention on a special AGREEMENT (you can download this WORD document) and then to sign it with your good name and email it to the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Please take your time to think, to decide, to write, to draw. Your intention and your signed commitment will then become part of the artwork and be displayed as part of the artwork in the special BOOK OF AGREEMENTS AND COVENANTS. I believe you can do this. I ask you to try.

There is a second way to participate. On three special public occasions, there will be what I call DAYS OF TRANSFER AND EXCHANGECheck the calendar on the website for those upcoming dates. At those times the artwork around you will undergo a profound change; it will flow. With the help of a museum staff person, I invite you to take permanent possession of one of the INDIVIDUAL HAND MIRRORS. I will give you one of these two-sided mirrors to take out into the world: the side with your image will light your way as you create yourTikkun, while the second side captures the sacred images of Others. In exchange, you agree to fill out and sign the INDIVIDUAL COVENANT attached to the back of the mirror. This will be a covenant between you, the participant, and myself the artist of this artwork.* The mirror becomes a material token of exchange between us, as you accept your role as covenantal partner. Your filled-out INDIVIDUAL COVENANT will be transferred to hang in the place of your mirror. As COVENANTS begin to fill the space, the higher mirrors will be moved down to be brought into play. This flow of light, COVENANT, and Tikkun into the world will transform the artwork. Eventually INDIVIDUAL COVENANTS will replace all the mirrors.

I need you. I cannot do this myself. By joining me in this journey, your light will be known here, and then, through your action, it will radiate out in the world. Thus, over the course of the seven months of this exhibition, this entire artwork can become completed and fulfilled.

All this scares me. Does it scare you too? Yet here we are together IN THE BEGINNING.

Yours in trust,

Mierle Laderman Ukeles

Mierle Laderman Ukeles
American, born 1939
Tsimtsum / Shevirat Ha-Kelim: Contraction / The Shattering of the Perfect Vessels e Birthing
Tikkun Olam: As Above So Below / As Below So Above
Mixed media installation
Commissioned by the Contemporary Jewish Museum
Courtesy of the artist and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York* Making covenants between one person and another shows self-awareness of power, much as covenants made between the Divine and people show how beloved we are. Examples of the former include Patriarch Abraham's covenant of peace with Abimelech, King of the Philistines, in Beersheba (Genesis Chapter 21, verse 32) as well as King Abimelech's covenant with Abraham's son Isaac (Genesis Chapter 26, verse 28).


In the Beginning: Artists Respond to Genesis is generously supported by The Shenson Foundation in memory of Ben and A. Jess Shenson; Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation; and the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from the Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest, celebrating Israel's 60th Anniversary. Funding for the video, Genesis Now, comes from the John Templeton Foundation with additional in-kind support from Pam Rorke Levy.

logo_nea_sm.gif Consulate General of Israel, Pacific Northwest


736 Mission Street (btwn. 3rd and 4th Streets), San Francisco, CA 94103 | Hours: Daily 11am–5pm, Thursdays 11am–8pm, Closed Wednesdays | 415.655.7800 |